Sometimes, explaining the difference between the EU and the UK to those who demand to know why Scotland would swap London rule for Brussels rule gives you a considerable amount of sympathy for Father Ted as he sat in the rain in a caravan and painstakingly explained the difference between small and far away to Father Dougal using a tiny model cow and pointing to cows in the field outside. Many of these people fancy themselves as serious commentators and go on SkyNews press review then take to social media afterwards to inform one and all that they’re experts on Scottish politics because they’re half Scottish and have an auntie in Auchterarder. That would be Carole I’m HALF SCOTTISH you know Malone.
However these folk are even worse than Father Dougal. He was just comically and cutely dumb, they are willfully refusing to understand the difference between the EU and the UK, and that makes a person even more of an object of pity than Craggy Island’s Argyle tank top wearing priest. And they can’t even sing My Lovely Horse either. If you don’t understand the difference between the UK and the EU you’ve got absolutely no business being on national television as a commentator on Scottish politics or indeed anything else. You belong in a caravan with Father Ted and a model cow as he patiently explains the difference between small and far away to you.
It’s remarkable that this still needs to be pointed out, but in terms of the control that they can exert over Scotland, the EU is both small and far away whereas the UK is both big and close by. The UK is the cow in the Scottish caravan. It’s on top of us, it takes up most of our space, it dominates everything, it can’t be ignored and the stench of its crap fills the room.
The UK is a unitary state to which Scotland belongs as a possession. The EU is a union of sovereign states. The difference between the UK and the EU is the difference between being a bonded labourer and having an ownership stake in a company where you are a partner. The UK can alter Scotland’s terms and conditions as it sees fit. After it received its ruling from the Supreme Court that the Sewell Convention has no legal effect, it doesn’t require the consent of Scotland, or even need bother with consulting Scotland, in order to change the devolution settlement or anything else that affects the lives of people in Scotland. The Sewell Convention is a statement written into the Scotland Act that the UK goverment will not “normally” alter any devolved power without the consent of the Scottish parliament. The Supreme Court ruled that it means nothing. Scotland has no legal right to a say within the UK. We can always be outvoted by Tory MPs from outside Scotland, and that’s exactly why we’re now being taken out of the EU despite the fact that a large majority of Scottish voters voted to remain. That’s why every single amendment to the Scotland Act proposed by Scotland’s own MPs was voted down in the Commons. We’ve got English votes for English laws, and English votes for Scottish laws too.
Contrast that with the rights of an EU member. EU member states have veto powers. If the EU decides that it wants to do something that a member state is deeply opposed to, that state can veto the decision. And it’s important to remember that these decisions are only arrived at in the first place after all member states are fully consulted and involved in the negotiations. Scotland doesn’t even have a right to be consulted in the UK, never mind not having a right of veto.
Here’s things that the UK can do. Even if not a single person in Scotland with the exception of the Honourable Stuffed Toy from Dumfries supported the British government, that government can still do exactly what it pleases with social security payments. It can do what it likes with all tax powers. It can even do that with those tax powers that have been devolved, since as we all know now a power devolved is a power retained and the Sewell Convention is a meaningless piece of cant with no legal effect. The UK insists that we pay a tax every year for the dubious privilege of receiving state sponsored British propaganda on our TVs. The EU can’t do that. The UK government can change the pension age, the rate at which the state pension is paid, and the requirements for receiving it at a whim. It can and it does impose weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, the EU can’t do that. The UK can take Scotland into war despite the overwhelming opposition of Scotland, the EU wouldn’t dream of that and has no powers to do so anyway. The list goes on and on.
Every single law, every single regulation, every single governmental rule, can theoretically be altered, changed, ripped up or replaced by the British government without the consent of a single Scottish elected representative. The powers of the EU are constrained by the EU treaties. The EU cannot interfere in the actions of a member government which are not governed by these treaties.
The fact is that right now, Scotland is being taken out of the EU into an uncertain and frankly frightening future by a UK government which has demonstrated that it has not the slightest interest in listening to any opinions other than what is good for the electoral prospects of the Conservative party. Once outside the EU the power of the Westminster parliament will not be constrained by anything at all. It will be absolute. Absolute power over Scotland, an absolute power which has ruled that Scotland doesn’t even have the right to be consulted about policies which affect it.
Yet some people claim that Scotland has more influence in this UK than it would do as a member of the EU. This UK in which Scotland’s representatives are a permanent minority and can be outvoted by Conservative representatives from England. In the EU Scotland will be one of 28 member states, none of which is large enough to outvote all the others by itself. As well as having a veto power, as well as having the powers of the EU constrained by the EU treaties, as well as having the right to participate in all negotiations and have a seat at the top table, Scotland will be able to form alliances with other member states and vote accordingly. We can’t do that in the UK parliament.
For all that Unionists tell us that Scotland has influence, the bottom line is that as the UK seeks an exit from the EU, Scotland has no influence at all. The harsh reality for Scotland is that tiny member states of the EU, countries that are far smaller and poorer than Scotland, have a veto power over the negotiations. That means that the governments of Estonia and Malta have more control over Scotland’s destiny than the people of Scotland do themselves.
If Scotland really expects to have a say over its own future, if Scotland really wants to have a voice and an influence that determines the path that Scotland takes, there’s only one way we can do it. It’s time to evict the cow from the caravan.
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